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An Interview with Mark Peters, Director of As Darkness Falls

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2016

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Your upcoming movie As Darkness Falls - in a few words, what is it about?

 

It is the story of a young teenager called Christopher who lives with his parents in a converted railway carriage on the coast of Kent at Dungeness. After a car crash shatters the community, he is left to deal with the ever increasing erratic and delusional behaviour of his father, Michael, who works at the nearby nuclear power station.

Finding solace in the beautiful and troublesome Isabelle, Christopher embarks on a journey of love, loss and redemption as those closest to him hurtle towards a darkness which will forever cast its shadow over the isolated community.

At its heart it is a dark phycological thriller which explores love, family, loss and the transition from childhood into the adult world. I guess it’s a commentary on the loss of innocence and the dark passengers we carry as adults.

 

What were your inspirations when writing As Darkness Falls, and is any of this based on personal experiences?

 

It all started with a weekend away and a trip down to Dungeness in Kent. Walking along that lonely stretch of pebble beach, the idea for the story started forming in my mind. It was a really exciting moment. I remember going home and pretty much fleshing out the entire story that evening, although it has gone through many many drafts since.

The original idea was to write it as a novel. Then over the summer I read a hugely inspiring book called Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez, the director of From Dusk Till Dawn, and how he made his first feature film for about $7,000. After reading that I decided to sit down and re-write what I had started as a screenplay.

I started writing it in June and it took me until September before I had a draft I was happy with. Soon after we had finance in place and I had a tweet from Robert himself, a hugely important moment for me as I felt it bookended the writing process.

I have incorporated a lot of my personal experiences into the characters, not events as such, but definitely emotions, thoughts and feelings. An actor said to me that all of the characters, even the smaller ones, jumped off the page for him. I think perhaps that’s because each of them, at their core, derive their feelings and motivations from real events. It was a very raw process writing such broken characters and it took me to some very dark places.

It’s difficult opening yourself up when you write, you pour so much emotion into the story and its characters you really do bare all. I spent 3 months writing the script and then to have to hand it over for others to critique is a difficult and exposing process but one that is ultimately very rewarding. I was absolutely floored by some of the amazing and heartfelt feedback I got from the industry, which is such a great feeling as this is a culmination of 10 years of my life.

 

Since As Darkness Falls is your debut feature as a director - what made you choose exactly this story for your first movie?

 

I wanted to not only tell a story that I would really enjoy watching but also make something that no one else was making at the moment. That was my core motivation for this movie. I had spent time looking to raise finance for another script by a very talented writer but realised that we were looking to raise the same amount of money as far more experienced producers and directors in a very saturated genre. I looked at what all of the great breakthrough directors had done as their first features and they all defined their genre rather than imitated success. If I can imitate even a small fraction of their success I will be happy. It is a daunting prospect moving from short film into features but absolutely thrilling. Nothing quite prepares you for the task at hand.

What really helps is the support of the team you build around yourself as a director. Making sure that everyone has the same vision and can see what you are trying to achieve. I have a fantastic producer called Anthony Allin from Timeworks Films who has taken so much pressure off me and allowed me to focus on the creative aspects of the story. I am also very lucky to have a woman by my side who has inspired, supported and encouraged me through all those difficult times and the ones still to come.

I suppose the right locations are key to your movie - so where will you film it, and what do you expect to be the advantages and challenges shooting there?

 

The location is very important to this story, the environment that Michael, Christopher and Isabelle live and breath within is as much a character in the film as they are. Dungeness has a real otherworldly feel about it. Every location exists and the narrative is intimately woven around these locations. It really couldn't be shot anywhere else.

We are shooting the internals in London for a week and then on location in Dungeness for 2 weeks after that. A lot of Michael’s narrative is set at night which is going to provide its own unique set of challenges at that time of the year, although we have the advantage that all of the locations are close to each other and privately owned so we don't have to deal with a lengthy negotiation process with the council and have a single point of contact for every location in the movie.

 

What can you tell us about the intended look and feel of your movie?

 

As with the narrative I want the look of the film to stay away from the tired stereotypes of both indie drama and horror. I intend to use light, specifically coloured light, to enhance the storyline in so far as making it seem even more unnatural than it already does; oranges and reds for Michael’s story arc and more subtle light airy scenes using greens and blues for Christopher. Christopher’s innocence is embodied in the landscape in so far as his scenes are mostly outdoors and mirror his own journey and exploration of the world, whereas his father's scenes are predominantly internal and very claustrophobic in nature even with the external scenes.

 

What can you tell us about the cast of As Darkness Falls, and why exactly these people?

 

Casting is going on at the moment and we are in talks with some absolutely incredible actors to play Michael and Christopher who, unfortunately, I cannot mention by name at the moment until those deals have been finalised.

I can mention Emily Haigh however, who plays Isabelle, one of the lead characters in the film. She is an exceptionally talented actress who at only 19 years old has also written and directed her own short films and is really starting to make a name for herself. In fact she is credited on As Darkness Falls as an associate producer because of her contributions in helping shape the script. I am also hoping to work with a superb actor and friend of mine, Henry Garrett, who I have worked with before on two of my shorts; Anonymous and Rabbit Foot.

 

As far as I know, As Darkness Falls is still in pre-production as we speak - so what's the schedule, and any idea when and where the film might be onto the general public yet (even though I know it's probably waaay too early to ask)?

 

We are currently in pre-production as you said but the turn around has been phenomenally quick so far. I started writing the story in June last year and had a first draft by September that I was happy with, so from concept to filming is going to be around 9 months. The current schedule is to shoot from the end of March through towards the end of April before going into post production, so we should have a finished cut of the film in June and within a year from concept. That should allow us to get the film ready for the festival season and distribution.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

To be honest As Darkness Falls is all consuming at the moment, however I do have two future projects that I have started to craft into a more solid narrative. They are both in a very early stage of development so I can’t say too much about them yet but one is very existential and follows two lost souls set in Paris and I am really keen to shoot it in French. The other is a sweeping narrative covering three generations set in the wilds of Siberia, a very ambitious movie. I have also always wanted to turn a series of books I read as a young adult into movies and am actively looking to secure the option at the moment. If I am successful then they will be my next films.

 

What got you into the filmworld in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

I grew up in a village called Meidrim in rural Wales, a small community of less than 600 people. When I was very young I had an old Commodore 64, a games console, if you can even call it that. It had this really simple programming language called “Basic” and I realised that by some simple commands and using keyboard characters I could make these little Stick figure animations out of the letters so I started experimenting telling these really simple stories.

When I turned 15 and wanted to go into film for my work experience my school suggested I work in Snappy Snaps. Not quite what I had in mind so I arranged work experience on my own in London and worked at a small animation company called The Hive. Which is where I started after leaving university. I realised it wasn't animation I was passionate about but being able to tell stories. When I moved to London I was lucky enough to be introduced to a company called Raindance, a company which offers film training and that is known for its film festival, where I did a foundation course in Filmmaking. I shot my first short film in 2006 shortly afterwards.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to As Darkness Falls?

 

I founded my company Inspiration Films in 2006 and produced many short films over the years. Most recently I produced three films starting with Anonymous starring Amanda Drew and Henry Garrett in 2012, then a film called The Pugilist's Son in 2013 starring Gary Stretch (Dead Man's Shoes) and Paul Barber (The Full Monty), which was financed by an executive producer called Mark Stewart who was involved with The Frozen Ground and Fire with Fire starring Bruce Willis. The most recent film was called Rabbit Foot, a period Second World War film where we cast Laura Pradelska from Game of Thrones and Will Payne who was in Mr Selfridge and Elfie Hopkins.

 

Filmmakers, writers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

I love drama. Thought provoking stories about real people in real situations, specifically situations outside of their control. It’s an idea that has always intrigued me; how we are not only products of our upbringing but shaped by events completely outside of our control, whatever those may be. A chance encounter, a glance across a room, a tragedy which might befall a family. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or perhaps, the right place at the right time. Growing up my father had an extensive library and early on I stumbled across the works of the likes of Camus, Sartre and Kafka and from reading those books I started to become interested in the idea of “Human Existence through Experience”. That one line underpins the stories I want to tell.

As far as writers and directors go I have long been a big fan of Cormac McCarthy as a storyteller. I always find myself transfixed by his novels such as Outer Dark and of course The Road. I think what fascinates me with those stories is we join the characters during a short period in their lives, focusing around a series of important, life changing events. It is this idea of glimpsing a fleeting moment in a characters life that I wanted to capture in my story. The idea that the narrative carries on beyond the final page. Or the credits of a film for that matter.

I also love the work of the Coen Brothers who are such masterful storytellers, No Country For Old Men for example (also written by McCarthy, funnily enough) and Fargo which blended such beautiful landscapes with an incredible and brutal narrative.

Also the work of Terrence Malick such as The Tree of Life for its gorgeous sweeping story arc and stunning artistic visuals. Outside of those there are so so many filmmakers who have inspired my journey, mainly through their own grit and determination to make it in the industry: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle and Guy Ritchie to name just a few.

Your favourite movies?

 

I like a really wide variety of films, so many that it’s difficult to nail them down. Everything from drama to fantasy, sci-fi to westerns. For me it’s the ones that really dig deep emotionally even if that takes you to some uncomfortable places. Films that don't shy away from subjects and situations that we find hard to connect with or breaking the traditional 3 act structure such as Place Beyond The Pines and Night Crawler. Most recently I really enjoyed Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Deplore is a strong word. I am not a huge fan of action movies or romantic comedies for example but that doesn't mean there is any less merit. It’s about the story, if you can connect with the characters then it is a good movie. We all connect differently and that’s the beauty of cinema.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

www.inspirationfilms.co.uk

www.facebook.com/inspirationfilms

www.twitter.com/inspirationfilm

www.imdb.me/mark-peters

www.twitter.com/Mark_A_Peters

www.asdarknessfallsmovie.com

www.facebook.com/asdarknessfallsmovie

www.twitter.com/asdarknessfalls

www.instagram.com/asdarknessfallsmovie

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

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Growing up in such a small and isolated community as I did was a fantastic opportunity for me. I lived on a beautiful farm and was surrounded by the most incredible scenery which really influenced some of my early writing. It was an inspiring place to grow up. Wales is a very beautiful country, one I am sure has many stories to tell. There are stories from my childhood set around Tenby and the Pembrokeshire coast that I would like to tell one day.

I remember every winter, almost without fail, the snow would come and we would be pretty much cut off from the rest of society. The nearest supermarket was 40 minutes drive away so we used to stock up on food before the snow arrived and you could almost guarantee the electricity would go out at some point. Not like here in London, a few hours off and then back to the warmth and coziness. It would be gone for days and days. My parents used to have to cook on small gas burners and we would huddle around the coal fire. I remember we had one of those old fashioned candle holders, almost victorian, and going to bed walking the corridors of our old Welsh long house by candlelight. It was an incredibly atmospheric place to grow up.

A world away from the life in North London with my wife Chloe. But like I mentioned earlier about life being a product of circumstance and experience, along the way my path has taken many different twists and turns but here I am. I am always fascinated to look back at the events that have led me to where I am now. Hindsight is a powerful thing, looking back and being able to connect the dots. All we can do is find what we love doing and what we are passionate about and push as hard towards those goals as we can, maybe those goals change as we get older but always fight for what you really want in life.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Special thanks to Richard S Barnett, founder of IIWYK!!!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

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